Win two games and you're Super Bowl-bound. Lose two and you're a bum. Players get used to it.
Charlie Johnson means no disrespect to the fans, the battalions of former players-turned-analysts or the modern sports journalist whose ironclad declarations tend to flip-flop with every 141st character.
"I guess it's the nature of the business," the Vikings left guard said. "And you see it with every team, not just us. But ..."
Pay attention. This is a good point by the big fella.
"Team A wins two in a row and they're going to the Super Bowl," Johnson said. "Team A loses the next week and it's, 'You stink.' All season long, it's, 'You're a contender! No, you stink. You're a contender! No, you stink. ...'"
In the pendulum of perception, the Vikings stink. Bad. Double-digit-loss-at-home-on-a-Thursday-night-to-Tampa-Bay bad.
In fact, the Vikings never will win another game. Ever. Unless they win this week at Seattle, which is 3-0 at CenturyLink Torture Chamber. Then the Vikings are unlikely to lose again. Ever.
"Thursday night was just one game," cornerback Antoine Winfield said.
"I'm sure everyone has games like that," Winfield said. "Not playing the way you expect to play or have already shown how you can play. Happens all the time to good teams."
A year ago, the Giants lost their opener at Washington 28-14. They stunk. Then they won three in a row. They were a contender! Then they suffered a double-digit loss at home to a 1-3 Seattle team that had recently been shut out at Pittsburgh. Yes, they stunk ... until they won their next three.
Then the Giants lost four consecutive games and really, really stunk. Until they won the Super Bowl.
If recent NFL history is an indicator, the team that will drive to the Super Bowl still is fumbling around the house looking for its keys. In 2005, the Steelers won it all as the sixth and final seed in the AFC. Two years ago, the Packers won it all as the sixth and final seed in the NFC.
"My thing is it's only Week 8," Vikings defensive end Brian Robison said. "Does it really matter who the so-called 'surprise' team is right now?"
We've reached the halfway point of the season for 12 teams. The three worst teams from last season -- Indianapolis (4-3), St. Louis (3-5) and the Vikings (5-3) -- already have surpassed last year's win totals. The Buccaneers (3-4) can match last year's total if they win at Oakland on Sunday.
Asked who the biggest surprise team in the league is at the halfway point of the season, Winfield smiled and said, "What about us? We're good."
Remember, 'Toine? You lost last week? You currently stink forever and ever? Try to keep up, will ya?
Yes, 'Toine, the 49ers have cycled back to Super Bowl 'contender.' Yes, you manhandled them. But, c'mon, that was so September. You couldn't possibly play like that again. Ever.
Speaking of ancient history that stretches all the way back to seven weeks ago, does anyone remember the Monday Night Football game on Sept. 17?
That was the night we all said goodbye to the competitive part of Peyton Manning's career. In Denver's 27-21 loss at Atlanta, poor Peyton's right arm died on national television. Fizzling and spinning around the Georgia Dome like a balloon that hadn't been tied off, Peyton's arm threw three picks and posted a 58.5 passer rating.
Another loss the next week at home against Houston confirmed the time of death. Until the next four games, when Manning became the first quarterback in NFL history to post four consecutive games with at least 300 yards, three touchdowns and a completion percentage of 70. And, yes, at 4-3, the Broncos are very much a contender. At least for another four days.
"The thing about surprises is it's only a surprise to the people on the outside," Johnson said. "I think a lot of people figured we'd be last in the division. And there are still eight games left, so we could end up that way and prove everybody right. I don't think we have that in us. But, I don't know, the swings every week are crazy. Just let the season play out."
Mark Craig • email@example.com